|home | subscribe | contact us | advertise with us | feature editorial guidelines | research editorial guidelines | gcsaa.org|
Soda can cure
I can’t always wait for repair parts, especially when the equipment maker has gone bankrupt or has abandoned its customers and dealers.
We had just pulled a rarely used machine out of storage and found a big hole in the rubber tube connecting the air cleaner and the carburetor. No dealer had it in stock and nobody knew when it might show up.
Now, I’m not only impatient, I’m also cheap. And I had just reread Robert Pirsig’s novel “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” where he debates with a friend about whether to use factory-made handlebar shims, or just to slice up a soda can and use the pieces as shims.
Thanks to Mr. Pirsig, we found a soda can cure for the bad tube.
Using scissors, we sliced the thin aluminum can into a ¾-inch strip about 6 inches long, then rolled it into a thin tube and inserted it to bridge the gap in the ruptured tube. It worked!
For the sake of security, we pulled the aluminum strip out and coated it with slow-drying “Super Glue” gel, then slid the whole thing back together and gave the glue a half-hour to dry. After three months, I can report that it works just fine and will probably last for the life of the machine. We’ll wrap the outside of the patched area with electrical tape for a little extra protection.
Since that novel-inspired repair, we’ve started slicing up aluminum cans and using the metal sheets for several applications. It makes a good anti-rub-through wrapper for sections where hydraulic lines and electric wire looms rub against the machine chassis.
The aluminum seems to be holding up where it was used to wrap a section of radiator hose that developed a bubble. We’ve got the hose on order, but we’ll leave the patch in place and see how long it lasts.
Since aluminum is widely used in modern engines and transmissions, it’s unlikely you’ll experience significant corrosion problems.
But be careful if the aluminum patch is in contact with copper, brass or steel parts inside the cooling system. With the high temperatures and variable chemical stew that is in the liquid coolant, there’s some risk of corrosion if you allow direct contact between dissimilar metals.
If your aluminum patch is going to be in contact with steel, brass or copper, coat the inside of the aluminum with a silicon-based product like instant-gasket RTV paste (room temperature vulcanizing). Let the RTV set for a while so it remains in place as a barrier between the different metals. In a pinch, you can use vinyl electrical tape to create a barrier, but be aware that the tape is likely to break down when exposed to high temperatures, so it’s not ideal for cooling system repairs.